On our very last day in Rajasthan, we got a good dose of sacred places. Gilles insisted on visiting the Dargah (shrine) of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti in Ajmer. It made sense, since this is where we boarded our night train to Delhi that night.
It left us with a few logistic questions though. Where to leave our luggage and where to spend the hot hours? The staff in the first hotel we checked out seemed surprised by European tourists arriving, so we moved on. Our driver, a native of Pushkar, did not know his way around Ajmer so we were at the mercy of people sending us back and forth in heavy traffic. Setting our eyes on the horse drawn carriages in Ajmer, we wished to ride in them, not the dull taxi that brought us from Pushkar. But isn’t the grass always greener on the other side of the fence?
The Haveli Heritage Inn was next stop, it sounded big and important. We were surprised to find a small guesthouse with a grassy courtyard run by a family that cooks dinner for the guest. We ordered our dinner for later that night and got directions to visit Ajmer’s two main sights.
First we raced (it was about closing time) to the Red Temple, a unique and very different Jain Temple. None of the white marble and the elaborate carvings we had seen in other places. This was a reddish building with a two-story temple hall, with the most stunning display: the golden city of Ayodhya, en miniature, with flying peacocks and gondolas. The dirty viewing windows were the only letdown…
In Ajmer, although a very important place of worship for Muslims, the holy business is much quieter. Very different from busy Pushkar, where Hindu pilgrims pour into town in incredible numbers and literally throw money at the priests.
Only the area around the shrine is packed with people. And this is where it happened… Gilles iPhone disappeared from his pocket, deep down in his pants. Gilles mood turned acid to say the least. Our hosts recommended reporting the theft with the police. It seemed such a senseless act. Leaving poor Kelly behind in the hotel courtyard, we stomped angrily through Ajmer’s evening rush hour. Several policemen listened and told each other what our problem was. A quick solution was found. Gilles had to write his own report by hand, which was later signed by an official. Funnily, when it came to signing the report a female officer was called in. What seemed a desperate act then, turned out to be a wise move: Gilles insurance showed mercy and almost fully repaid for the expensive toy.
A five course vegetarian dinner at our resting place was the perfect farewell to Rajasthan. Our 1st class compartment on the night train we shared with the bossy wife of an army officer who had just returned from the 60th anniversary of his regiment. She was furious that her husband had to sleep in another compartment and we often wondered how she would have dealt with Indian co-travellers…